Social Media is So “Freaking Hard”!

Louis Foong 1

Welcome to the Wild, Wild West of B2B Social Media Marketing

B2B Social media is hard work!

image credit: shutterstock

I was told that this past week was “Social Media Week”. My spontaneous response was, “Oh really, where?” I’m sorry, but I guess I’m just not socially hyper enough to have seen or heard anything about it. Anyhow, I do not have an ounce of doubt that social media is a phenomenon significant enough to warrant a string of events, seminars, discussions and whatever else was part of the social media week.

I have been hearing all kinds of comments about social media. Here is one interesting anecdote—I had been advising the CMO of a technology reseller company about digital marketing with emphasis on email marketing, online lead nurturing mechanisms, web analytics and online lead tracking, etc. He was of the opinion that a rationalization of his company’s marketing budget must now involve a healthy (a.k.a. fat) piece for social media marketing. “It’s so easy” and “so inexpensive” was what he said to me then. He was excited about social media; it was still fairly new for B2B, definitely cool and très sexy.

September is typically the month when organizations take a long, hard look at what’s left of their resources and time before the year draws to a close. So a week ago, I was with the same CMO, asking how the year had been so far and how their social media efforts had panned out. Sheepishly, he replied, “You know Louis, I have realized that Facebook is easy, Twitter is easy, LinkedIn is easy, YouTube is easy; but social media is just so hard! And it takes so much time. Plus, we can’t even measure or quantify the results properly.”

Obviously, the social media platform experts who were telling him how easy it was did not tell him that engagement is not easy, conversion is not easy, measurement is not easy, ROI is not easy…social media is not easy. No Mr. CMO, did no one tell you that? Did your social media expert not educate you that it will take much more than Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to craft a sustainable social media strategy? Note that I focus on `sustainable’, not merely `successful’, which can be a temporary state.

Voicing a similar sentiment, Kipp Bodnar, marketing director at HubSpot admits in this podcast that blogging, which is, in my opinion, one of the most worthwhile social activities for businesses is “freaking hard”.

So Is Anyone Taming the Social Media Beast?

I have been watching this social media landscape for a while now. Not a silent by-stander, not an over-enthusiastic participant, somewhat of a skeptic perhaps and most definitely, a very curious observer. Needless to say, I hold my head in my hands when I see survey findings that say 90% of B2B companies are actively using social media, 85% of these organizations are managing social media activities in-house, 56% will maintain their 2012 social media budget in 2013 while 41% will increase their budget…AND…only 10% are satisfied with their social media program. Duh! What gives?

Below is a random collection of statements I see being tossed around with regards to social media—and here’s what I have to say about them:

  • SOCIAL MEDIA IS A SCIENTIFIC METHOD OF DIGITAL MARKETING. Sure, just as scientific as “chemistry” being important in a relationship. You can follow a scientific, disciplined approach in social media, I agree. Have all the right tools and techniques in place, determine the right frequency for social updates, track links coming in from social media channels to your company website and blog, monitor email campaigns for viral sharing of your social media links, and so on. And alongside all this `scientific’ activity, understand and try to learn the `art’ of engagement, of building relationships, of experiential marketing, of transforming business.
  • SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING IS FAST; IT’S REAL-TIME MARKETING. Watch it, speed thrills and also kills. Companies need to get over this burning desire to jump into social conversations right away. Responding with a simple, graceful thank you or acknowledging an issue that has come up on the social media channels is different from offering a full-length commentary without thinking through the response. Can you afford to let things spin out of control or would you consider trying to tame the social media beast? Here is a Social Media Readiness Assessment Checklist to help you (our gift to you! If you find it helpful, please subscribe to our email list – thanks.)
  • SOCIAL MEDIA IS ABOUT COMMUNITY. So is your intranet. So is your dealer network. So is your customer satisfaction survey. So is your water cooler. Are you listening and being proactive on these channels? Just as all of these are important, yes, I agree that social media is too because it helps you build a community. Now, the question is, do those 5000 Likes on Facebook (of which you bought more than half, and yes they can be bought) constitute a community? Of what significance is this “community” and what does it do for your brand or for your demand generation efforts?
  • SOCIAL MEDIA ENABLES ADVOCACY. And what will you advocate? Your company, your brand, your products and services? And what will you win—likes, fans and followers? Step back for a bit here; advocacy in the form of thought leadership, of marketing principles that can make a difference in the way business is conducted, opinions and advice that are transformational. That is the advocacy you want to aim for.
  • SOCIAL MEDIA CAN BE AUTOMATED. Who are you socializing with—robots? Humans need relevant content, engaging ideas, interesting stories, solutions to their problems, a sounding board for their pain points, a showcase of proven successes that can be replicated, and much more. Yes, you can automate a tweet to remind participants who have registered for your upcoming webinar. But automated social media marketing simply must stop at that.
  • SOCIAL MEDIA CAN BE COMPLETELY OUTSOURCED. Of course! The platforms, networks and social media channels don’t belong to you anyway, right? Who do the relationships belong to? Who owns the conversations about your company and brand on social networks? Who bears the responsibility of building meaningful, relevant, value-based content to engage your audience? And finally, who will pick up a true lead and progress it through the cycle towards conversion? You or your outsourced media partner?
  • SOCIAL MEDIA IS DEFINITELY WORTH IT, ESPECIALLY BECAUSE TRADITIONAL MARKETING IS DEAD. Really? Well then, R.I.P. Common Sense! Go ahead, run your social media campaigns separate from proven traditional marketing plays and good luck in the Wild, Wild West of social media.

What’s your take on social media in the B2B world? Email or call me, Louis Foong, at (905) 709-3827.

One Comment »

  1. David Bird October 7, 2012 at 9:03 pm - Reply

    Well said Louis! Very practical advice. I always ask people; “how much of your audience (customers and prospects) are using social media for business?” We marketers love social media, but that doesn’t mean everyone else does.

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